Unclaimed Terrain is a book of fiction by Ajay Navaria, translated from the Hindi by Laura Brueck.
In “Scream”—the lead story in Ajay Navaria’s collection—the unnamed protagonist is told at the outset, ‘Crime is very seductive. And revenge a trickster.’ The narrator rejects having his identity constrained by the cruel monikers assigned by the caste Hindus of his village or the supposed refuge of the Christian church. He occupies an ‘unclaimed terrain’, as do many of Navaria’s characters. Journeying from a Dantewada village to the town of Nagpur and from there to Mumbai, the Byronic protagonist is raped, works as a masseur and then as a gigolo even while pursuing his education.
The city teaches him the many meanings of labor, and he is freed—if ultimately destroyed—by its infinite possibilities for self-invention. As complex as they are political, Navaria’s characters—ranging from a brahmin peon to a dalit male prostitute—are neither black nor white, neither clearly good nor evil. They inhabit a grey zone; they linger in the transitional passageway between past object and future subject, casteism and democracy. Unclaimed Terrain heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in Indian literature.
From Navayana, in our Literature section, in hardcover, 200 pages, Rs. 295, ISBN: 9788189059521